August 15, 2016
Labor advocate Susan Ople urged the labor committees of the Senate and House of Representatives to look into a new medical certification scheme for Kuwait-bound OFWs that charges nearly triple the costs of prevailing medical tests and limits the number of eligible clinics to only seven Metro Manila-based medical centers.
The head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-profit organization that specializes in labor migration, warned that allowing this new medical scheme could encourage other gulf states to adopt a similar certification model to the disadvantage of overseas Filipino job applicants.
“A mysterious company known as WINSTON Q8 Certifications Solutions claims to represent the Ministry of Health of Kuwait. It has set up a web platform where all job applicants for Kuwait must register for a fee of Php 8,400. Once they deposit the money, they are given an activation code via e-mail so that they can register and select from seven medical clinics, all based in Metro Manila,” the Ople Center said, adding that only overseas job applicants that go through the WINSTON certification process would be considered for visa stamping by the Kuwait Embassy.
“By linking these prescribed medical tests to the visa stamping procedure of the Embassy of Kuwait, WINSTON Q8 operates as a monopoly, which is against our laws. By claiming on its website (www.winstonkw.com) to represent the Ministry of Health of Kuwait, it encroaches upon our sovereignty. If this claim is true, is it therefore the intention of Kuwait’s Ministry of Health to interfere with our government’s own health and labor policies at great costs to our OFWs?” Ople said.
At the Kapihan sa Manila Hotel, Roland Collado, the vice-chairman of the Philippine Association of Agencies for Kuwait (PHILAAK), voiced the industry’s own concerns over the WINSTON medical certification system.
The recruitment industry representative said that the Senate and House inquiries would help clarify the government’s position on the medical certification scheme being introduced by WINSTON Q8.
He warned that the exorbitant medical fees would drive job applicants to leave the country as victims of illegal recruitment and human trafficking syndicates. “Once they see the tedious and expensive online registration and certification process, they may just opt to accept the false promises of illegal recruiters and human traffickers,” Collado said.
“The WINSTON medical certification process discriminates against job applicants from the Visayas, and Mindanao regions. All its medical clinics are based in Metro Manila, and charge more compared to other DoH-accredited clinics,” Collado said.
Collado noted that existing laws and a Supreme Court decision made it clear that overseas job applicants have the freedom to choose where to get their medical tests done as long as the medical testing center or clinic is accredited with the Department of Health.
“No less than President Duterte has directed government agencies to ease the burden of our overseas Filipino workers. The WINSTON medical certification scheme clearly increases the burden on our OFWs. It should be stopped,”OFW advocates said.
Ople, and fellow OFW advocate, Jun Aguilar of the Filipino Migrant Workers’ Group, have earlier called on the Department of Health, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Foreign Affairs to look into WINSTON Q8, which started operating last August 8, 2016.
In 2014, around 70,000 Filipinos left the country to work in Kuwait. Based on the results of a 2015 survey on overseas Filipinos, the Philippine Statistics Authority estimates the OFW population in Kuwait at around 140,000.